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Virgin Media to drop UKTV channels in carriage row

10 channels could go dark on 21st July

Virgin Media is expected to drop all 10 UKTV channels this weekend in a row over a carriage deal.

Both sides are citing different reasons for a breakdown in talks. Virgin Media said a key sticking point for them is VoD rights to BBC shows that air on a repeat window on UKTV’s channels. It says BBC Studios has not granting a VoD licence. to UKTV and that it has reached out to BBC Studios to try and strike a deal that would bring at least some of the content to their customers as Box Sets. So far those attempts have been unsuccessful.

“Virgin Media has had a long relationship with UKTV, but viewing behaviours amongst our customers are changing and we are committed to investing in the kind of programming they want to watch, whenever and however they want to watch it. Unfortunately, due to the restrictions put on UKTV by the BBC, UKTV is not able to provide the significant on-demand programming that we know our customers want”, said David Bouchier, chief digital entertainment officer at Virgin Media.

UKTV said Virgin Media is demanding a “significant cut” in fees, despite the fact that they account for more than 25 per cent of viewing to pay entertainment channels in Virgin’s basic pay pack. “We want to continue to provide our channels to Virgin Media, but the huge cut in fees that Virgin has requested doesn’t reflect the value we bring to customers”, said UKTV CEO Darren Childs. “The money we receive from platforms helps to pay for our record investment in high-quality programmes, which we increased to more than £150 million in the last year. If our 10 channels, including Dave, W, Gold and Alibi, are no longer available through Virgin, we will be hugely disappointed for the millions of customers who will lose out. We’ll keep working with other platforms to bring viewers the drama, comedy and documentaries they love.”

UKTV said ithas offered Virgin Media an increased range of VoD content, enhanced distribution rights, and an additional channel, Gold HD, to secure a new deal. 

The current agreement ends on Saturday 21st July. UKTV’s 10 channels – including Dave, Gold, W and Drama – will then go dark. Virgin said it will replace UKTV’s channels with such channels as Paramount Network and Your TV.